Low-carbohydrate diet may reduce migraines - study


Italian scientists believe a diet low in carbohydrates may be a way to avoid debilitating migraines.

Migraines affect an estimated 1 billion people worldwide, and there are a number of supposed remedies for them.

The team of researchers from Sapienza University of Rome looked specifically into the effects of a low-calorie ketogenic diet on migraines.

The typical ketogenic diet was introduced in 1921 as a way to treat drug-resistant epilepsy, and is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. A low calorie version is low in both fat and calories.

The scientists looked into the diet after being alerted to the case of twin sisters who reported their migraines disappeared after they undertook a ketogenic diet for weight loss.

The team studied two groups of overweight female migraine sufferers who were seeing a dietician for assistance with weight loss.

One group was put on a low-calorie ketogenic diet for one month before switching to a standard low-calorie diet, the second group spent the full six months on the standard low-calorie diet.

The scientists found that members of the first group saw a significant reduction in their migraines after the first month of their diet, but reported their headaches worsening as they transitioned to the standard diet.

The second group only reported a decrease in migraines after three months.

"We concluded that the ketogenic diet was the reason for that improvement," lead scientist Cherubino Di Lorenzo told ResearchGate.

Mr Di Lorenzo said the body produces molecules called "ketone bodies" when not provided with carbs, which act as a fuel replacement for several kinds of cells and have an anti-inflammatory effect.

"This is also important because 'sterile inflammation' – inflammation caused by damage rather than by microbes – is at the heart of migraines," Di Lorenzo said.

The team said despite their findings, the results are inconclusive and they cannot definitively say ketone bodies are responsible for reducing migraines.